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VMware consolidates resellers, other partners into one channel program

VMware resellers, integrators and even OEMs will all be part of the VMware Partner Network, which offers higher margins in exchange for more specialized training.

VMware wants its resellers and other partners to move beyond server virtualization and into desktop and infrastructure virtualization. And it will pay them a premium to go there.

At the company's annual partner conference in Orlando this week, execs announced four new partner specialties: infrastructure virtualization, business continuity, desktop virtualization and lab management.

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Partners that receive extra training in those areas and sell ancillary VMware products -- including VMware View, VMware Site Recovery Manager, Lab Manager and vCenter Lifecycle Manager -- will qualify to earn additional margins on those sales.

The new specialties are an advantage for partners that are already part of the VMware Authorized Consultant program because they have already made investments in VMware and don't have to start from scratch, said Patrick Cronin, principal and co-founder of Kovarus Inc., a VMware reseller and integrator in San Francisco.

"I would see a downside if we were just getting into the program, because we would have to prove ourselves [to customers] and compete with companies like ourselves," Cronin said.

The new specialty areas come in response to partner demand, said Ben Matheson, VMware's director of global partner marketing.

"Basically what we've found with partners is that they're really good at selling server consolidation, but what they want is more education," he said. "They're asking for a formalized training program, so we've created competencies or specific functional training areas to help our partners get educated outside [of] typical server consolidation."

Typically, a competency requires five days of training for multiple employees at a partner and costs $3,000, Matheson said. Partners with the relevant competency can earn 5% of additional margin by selling advanced solutions such as VMware View, he said.

Previously, the VMware reseller certifications were informal, but now partners' competencies will be made known, and that will lead customers to go with partners that have more experience and certifications, Cronin said.

"The investment [in the program] is well worth it," he said.

VMware is also consolidating its various partner types -- resellers, integrators, even OEMs -- into one program, called the VMware Partner Network. These changes come just a week before VMware will finally detail its next-generation Vsphere virtualization platform and at a time when its franchise is under assault by less fully featured -- but less expensive -- virtualization options from Microsoft and Citrix Systems. Both of those companies rely heavily on their partners for sales and implementation services.

"In the past we've had different programs, like one for consulting, one for research, a VIP network specifically for reseller partners," Matheson said. "With the Partner Network, we've taken all those programs and put them under one umbrella and consistently applied program rules to them."

Also new is an updated information portal called Partner Central, which will give partners easier access to market development funds (MDF) and make it easier for partners to do business with VMware, Matheson said.

"Partner Central is kind of the hub of information for our partners," he said. "[Partners] can access this dashboard everyday to see how their business with VMware is going."

The Partner Network will place a bigger focus on skills that solutions providers can offer to customers, and it will give resellers more visibility, said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen Inc., a VMware reseller in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Zarek said the Partner Network will probably not spark a lot of competition between VMware partners, despite the fact that all partners will be in the same program.

"We [will] layer on our own unique capabilities that will hopefully differentiate us," he said.

Resellers can register for the program through Partner Central, and the training courses are all online. Partner Network has four tiers -- registered, professional, enterprise and premiere -- and there are different training requirements for each level, Matheson said.

The Partner Network marks a commitment by VMware to evangelize its channel to customers, said Sam Haffar, president and co-CEO of Computex Inc., a VMware reseller in Houston.

"Right now, we're the ones that say we're a premier partner," Haffar said. "We explain what that means [to customers]. We'll still do that, but VMware's commitment is that they will … say, 'This is what you get by working with a premier partner.'"

The Partner Network will go live late this quarter, VMware said.

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